Unsupervised topic extraction from privacy policies

David Sarne, Jonathan Schler, Alon Singer, Ayelet Sela, Ittai Bar Siman Tov

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

19 Scopus citations


This paper suggests the use of automatic topic modeling for large-scale corpora of privacy policies using unsupervised learning techniques. The advantages of using unsupervised learning for this task are numerous. The primary advantages include the ability to analyze any new corpus with a fraction of the effort required by supervised learning, the ability to study changes in topics of interest along time, and the ability to identify finer-grained topics of interest in these privacy policies. Based on general principles of document analysis we synthesize a cohesive framework for privacy policy topic modeling and apply it over a corpus of 4,982 privacy policies of mobile applications crawled from the Google Play Store. The results demonstrate that even with this relatively moderate-size corpus quite comprehensive insights can be attained regarding the focus and scope of current privacy policy documents. The topics extracted, their structure and the applicability of the unsupervised approach for that matter are validated through an extensive comparison to similar findings reported in prior work that uses supervised learning (which heavily depends on manual annotation of experts). The comparison suggests a substantial overlap between the topics found and those reported in prior work, and also unveils some new topics of interest.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Web Conference 2019 - Companion of the World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2019
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery, Inc
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781450366755
StatePublished - 13 May 2019
Event2019 World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2019 - San Francisco, United States
Duration: 13 May 201917 May 2019

Publication series

NameThe Web Conference 2019 - Companion of the World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2019


Conference2019 World Wide Web Conference, WWW 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CitySan Francisco

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
� 2019 IW3C2 (International World Wide Web Conference Committee), published under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 License.


This research was partially supported by the ISRAEL SCIENCE FOUNDATION grant No. 1162/17.

FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation1162/17


    • Privacy policies
    • Topic modeling
    • Unsuprevised learning


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